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SCOTUS Watch – Monday, June 30th – UPDATE: Hobby Lobby wins, women lose; Harris wins narrow ruling

SCOTUS Watch …



All eyes turn to the court

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The Supreme Court will be in session this morning for orders starting at 9:30 Eastern. The two remaining opinions will be released starting at 10:00am. SCOTUSblog will liveblog at this link today starting at 9:15 Eastern .

SCOTUSblog: October 2013 Term, cases pending

DECISION: Harris wins her suit but Abood not overturned. PDF decision from SCOTUS

Harris v. Quinn, No. 11-681 [Arg: 1.21.2014]

Issue(s): (1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review.

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DECISION: Hobby Lobby wins right to discriminate against its female employees. PDF decision from SCOTUS

Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, No. 13-356 [Arg: 3.25.2014]

Issue(s): Whether the religious owners of a family business, or their closely held, for-profit corporation, have free exercise rights that are violated by the application of the contraceptive-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, No. 13-354 [Arg: 3.25.2014]

Issue(s): Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

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Commentary below …

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Analysis and Opinion …

SCOTUSblog on Hobby Lobby The link is to all the documents and commentary on the case including the “Plain English” explanation by Amy Howe.

To understand the eventual ruling, it is important to know what they are ruling on. From Lyle Denniston:

Federal appeals courts ruled in conflicting ways.  The U.S. Court of Appeals f0r the Tenth Circuit decided that Hobby Lobby was likely to win its challenge because, even though it is a profit-making business, it can, indeed, act according to faith principles.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided that neither the company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, nor its owners could claim First Amendment religious rights – because, it found, the corporation is incapable of doing so, and because the owners had chosen the corporate form for their business and it stands apart from their personal interests.[…]

The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.  All that is at issue is who must obey the contraceptive mandate.

My reading of this is that if the court votes to affirm the ruling of the 3rd Circuit and reverse the ruling of the 10th Circuit, it is a win for those who believe that the religious exemptions should not be expanded to include the shareholders of for-profit corporations and their corporations. If the court votes to affirm the ruling of the 10th Circuit and reverse the 3rd Circuit, it is a loss.

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SCOTUSblog on Harris v Quinn. The link is to all the documents and commentary on the case including the argument analysis by Lyle Denniston

The precedent whose philosophical foundation was up for discussion – and that Verrilli urgently sought to be reaffirmed – is Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.  That 1977 decision was the Court’s first major ruling to embrace public employee unionism and the idea that a single union should represent a public unit of workers and all employees – union members or not – would have to support its core bargaining activities by paying dues.[…]

The home-care workers, [the lawyer for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation] contended, were being coerced into financial support for a public employee union that wants to “petition the government” in their place, but in ways that some of those workers might well oppose.

The Quinn in the case is Pat Quinn, governor of Illinois, the employer of Harris, the woman who has sought to not have to pay union dues in her job as a home health care provider. The 7th Circuit ruled that the case was not ripe for judicial review and would not take the case. The petitioner sought a ruling from the Supreme Court. A ruling for Harris could remand the case to the 7th Circuit for review or the court could rule on its own that public sector unions cannot require government employees to pay dues. There is a lot of hair on fire analysis about this case being the “end of unions” and the “end of the Democratic Party”. It would be better to wait and look at the ruling. The National Right to Work group, which has powerful right-wing sponsors and friends on this court,  will likely prevail in this case. But what it means depends on how the decision is written.

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42 comments

  1. From Kennedy’s concurrence: “It is important to confirm that a premise of the Court’s opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here at issue furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees.”

    It is a compelling interest but not compelling enough to require it to be a part of health insurance coverage mandated by a federal law.

    It appears that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent has some excellent points, points that sadly fall on deaf ears. :(

    “In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on thirdparties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith-in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.”

    The bodies of the women who work for Hobby Lobby essentially come in second to the religious beliefs of their bosses.

  2. bubbanomics

    are exactly the same.  maybe I should just say “SNOWDEN!!” and be done with it.

    On the other hand, I like Kennedy’s idea that the gov’t should just pay for it.

    Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion says that the government could pay for the coverage itself, so that women receive it.

    Perhaps one could extend Kennedy’s logic to healthcare in general.  What a concept.

  3. Diana in NoVa

    Gurrls, where are your red handmaiden robes or your blue wifey robes or your green Martha robes?

    Or are you an “Econo-Wife” who wears red, blue, and green stripes?

    Religion helped bring about the downfall of the Roman Empire and seems well on the way to bringing down ours.

  4. anotherdemocrat

    the Nordic countries have the most egalitarian societies, but they’re hard to move to, and cold

    Central/South America – advertised as great to retire to, but looks like if you have a problem, it’s your problem (a couple who had people tapping into their electricity in Costa Rica got sued for libel when they tried to put a stop to that). But if I move into an ex-pat community, maybe that would be taken care of.

    Ireland – my ancestry is further back than great grandparents so I can’t claim citizenship, and their real estate prices are through the roof

    anyway, this ruling was ridiculous


  5. “Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women that are employed by these companies,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. He added: “We believe that a company should not be able to assert their views to deny employees federally mandated coverage.”

    Earnest emphasized that President Barack Obama “believes strongly” in religious freedom and has created accommodations for religious institutions (such as houses of worship and nonprofits). He said the White House will explore its options after it processes the ruling.

    TPM

    The White House asked Congress to take action and work with the president to solve the problem created by the ruling which will harm women’s health … HAHAHAHA!!! Sorry, I was able to keep from ROFLMAO at “Congress taking action” and “working with the president” but when it would be to mitigate the harm to women’s health, I couldn’t keep from laughing.

    Officially, My Ass has been Laughed Off.

     


  6. Collective bargaining is a fundamental right that helped build America’s middle class. The ability of public servants to collectively bargain is crucial to ensuring both a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work and the high quality service citizens expect and deserve from their government.

    For almost 40 years, the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment allows state and local governments to require employees to pay a fair share of a union’s expenses for representing that worker. We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has carved out a group of workers – homecare workers who provide critical support to the elderly and people with disabilities in their own homes.



    The collective bargaining model in Illinois resulted in fairer pay and benefits for hardworking caregivers as well as improved training, safety and health protections, and tools to help those who need care to find it.  The Court’s decision will not only make it significantly harder for these dedicated employees to get a fair shake in exchange for their hard work, but will make it harder for states and cities to ensure the elderly and Americans with disabilities get the care they need and deserve.

    The Administration remains committed to defending collective bargaining rights.

    Statement

  7. Why Today’s Hobby Lobby Decision Actually Hurts People Of Faith

    But while conservatives would have the American public believe that protecting Hobby Lobby is about protecting all religious people, the reality is that today’s ruling actually hurts people of faith. In fact, a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey conducted in early June found that a substantial majority of almost every major U.S. Christian group support the idea that publicly-held corporations and privately-owned corporations should be required to provide employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.

    [Other] evangelical Christians take umbrage with the theological premise undergirding their case – namely, that opposing the ACA mandate is somehow an extension of a pro-life position. Richard Cizik, former Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of evangelicals, wrote in the Huffington Post this weekend that evangelicals who support Hobby Lobby “are not actually being pro-religious freedom or pro-life.” Similarly, Julia K. Stronks, evangelical Christian and political science professor at Whitworth University, teamed up with Jeffrey F. Peipert, a Jewish family-planning physician, to pen an op-ed for Roll Call earlier this month in which they argue that granting Hobby Lobby religious exemption will actually lead to more abortions. […]

    These voices represent the majority of religious Americans who insist that today’s pro-Hobby Lobby decision isn’t about protecting “religious liberty.” Instead, it’s just a victory for one kind of religion, specifically the (usually conservative) faith of those privileged enough to own and operate massive corporations. That might be good news for the wealthy private business owners like the heads of Hobby Lobby, but for millions of religious Americans sitting in the pews – not to mention thousands working in Hobby Lobby stores – their sacred and constitutional right to religious freedom just became compromised.

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